Between tears and laughs, a burial in rural Shaanxi
I never planned to shoot this series of pictures. I was on a photography assignment for the magazine, and I had to take pictures showing the economic development and poverty reduction work in a poor rural area of Shaanxi province. I had a list of places to photograph, but when I was walking on the street, I stumbled upon a group of people who were preparing for a funeral. I said hello and took a few pictures from a distance, unsure whether I should use my camera or not. Against all expectations, the mourning family invited me to take pictures. All the shots in this series were taken with their permission, and I sent them the pictures. They told me I should take pictures to show foreigners what a traditional Chinese funeral looks like, and asked lots of questions about the differences between China and the West.
These pictures were shot during two days. The family "adopted" me. It was the first time I was so close to my subjects on a documentary project, despite the cultural difference. What deeply impressed me was the way moments of intense grief and moments of happiness alternated very quickly. At times, people would burst into tears, and only one minute later, people would laugh together. People were cooking together, playing cards, drinking alcohol, smoking a lot and after the burial, everybody had an enormous meal together. A music band was playing and their name can be translated as "Good luck is coming".
I was really honored and touched that this family invited me to the funeral. During the whole process, I was not only taking pictures but also eating, drinking and even singing with them. This series documents the traditional Chinese rituals for a funeral such as dressing in white, burning paper money, a paper house and other paper goods (there was a paper washing machine) so the person who passed away could use these things in the afterlife. But to me, this series is mostly about the contrasting emotions of sorrow and joy during this funeral.